Instagram has more than 1 billion users and a network of influencers at brand’s fingertips. These influencers create over a million sponsored posts each year, making Instagram the most important influencer marketing channel so far. (Source: Big Commerce)
With 78% of marketers saying that they prefer Instagram posts for their sponsored content placements (with Instagram Stories and YouTube placements following close behind), there’s never been a better time to be an Instagram influencer. The rise of micro-influencers (influencers with less than 10,000 followers) makes these sponsored content opportunities even more available to the average Instagram user/influencer.
Am I Ready for Brand Collaborations?
The answer is yes, but dive in with caution. Make sure that you continue to offer your audience quality content, even when mentioning a brand’s products or services. If you don’t feel that you can recommend a product or brand and still offer good content, then choose good content… every time.
Follower count doesn’t matter. With the rise of micro-influencers (influencers with less than 10,000 followers), the size of your following is no longer a disqualification from getting brand partnerships. Being able to prove your engagement and influence with your audience is more important than having a high follower count. In many cases, posting to several platforms can also help you reach the kind of numbers that brands will consider for partnerships.
Another consideration is if you can produce the content necessary for the partnership. If you are moving, have limited space available, your camera is broken, you don’t have the right model, etc. then you probably don’t want to look for partnerships right now. Brand partnerships work best when you have the resources to create great content. If you’re still struggling to create your content, work on perfecting this process before pursuing collaborations.
Perfecting the Pitch
When reaching out to potential brand partners, first impressions are everything. Take a second to go through your Instagram from that brand’s perspective — Do you post about the brand’s competitors? Have you said anything negative about brands in the past? Does there appear to be trust between you and your audience?
These questions will help you understand how a brand sees you. Although posting about a brand’s competitors won’t disqualify you, you want to keep that in mind when making your pitch and set a clear boundary for the brand (not mentioning the competitor during the month you are posting, perhaps even deleting that previous post). A brand may or may not require exclusivity, may or may not be turned off by negative reviews, and may or may not want to have more in-depth creative control over what you say about their brand. These are all considerations to be made before and while making a connection with that brand.
How to Reach Out to Brands:
- Email – Email is still the preferred method of contact for most companies. A quick introduction, including links to your blog, Instagram, or social platforms, is essential, then you can give your pitch.
- Contact Form – Many brands will have a contact form on their website for inquiries. These forms are a great way to find out who to talk to. Start the conversation by requesting the contact info of the marketing manager or the person who manages brand partners, then follow up with an email to that contact.
- Direct Messages – DMs have been gaining popularity as more and more companies embrace Instagram as a customer interaction platform, as well as a visual content platform. DMs can be a little trickier, because the person reviewing these messages may not be the same person who can set up a partnership or collaboration. Remember to mention your other social platforms and links in these messages, even when they can see them in your profile or bio. Show the brand that you’ll save them leg work now and later on by presenting yourself in a way that doesn’t require them to research you.
- Phone Calls – This method of communication is generally discouraged. Phone calls to the company typically result in lengthy holds, chats with receptionists or customer service, and being told that the manager is unavailable. Phone calls should be used as a last resort for first contact, and used sparingly to clarify details of your partnership.
What to Say when Pitching to Brands
The first questions a brand manager will ask when evaluating a potential partner is “will this influencer sell my product?” and “Will this influencer benefit my brand?” It is important to lay out the benefits of working with you when approaching a new brand.
What can you offer a brand? Be sure to mention reach, average likes per post, how many platforms you can post on, whether your posts get shared, and any previous successes with other brands. These bits of information can strengthen your appeal to that brand.
What do you want to promote and why? Paint a picture for the brand of what you plan to promote on your social media. Is there a particular product you had in mind? Mention which products you really like and why, as well as what you would be sharing on your platform. If you plan to do video content, animated content, or anything special, be sure to mention that in your pitch, as this is a huge plus for most brands.
While there is no exact formula of what to say in a pitch, here is a general template of what to include.
I absolutely love <PRODUCT NAME> and would be thrilled to share something about it with my <#> followers. Would you be interested in collaborating?
You can find me @INSTAGRAM HANDLE and on Facebook at <LINK>.
I would love to <OUTLINE PLAN FOR COLLABORATION>.
(Optional:) I have previously worked with <BRAND NAME> and <BRAND NAME>.
When Brands Respond
Odds are, you’ll be pitching to many brands before you get a response. Don’t be discouraged! Just keep pitching and you’re sure to find a brand that is eager to work with you.
When a brand does respond, you can begin discussing the details of your collaboration. As an important reminder, make sure you get your agreement in writing! An email thread is not enough to guarantee that each party knows what to expect from the arrangement. Getting a written agreement that outlines all the requirements of your collaboration can protect you from potential squabbles with your brand partner.
As a rule of thumb, go above and beyond any contractual obligations when working with a brand. Sending your photos 1-2 days early, or responding to emails quickly can be the difference that sets you apart from other influencers and makes brands want to work with you again and again.
How to Turn Your First Collaboration Into Many Collaborations
Completing your first brand collaboration is a wonderful learning experience, but the question remains — how do I get more brand collaborations?
The trick is to leverage your first brand experience to get additional brands to work with you and to get repeat promotions with the brand now that you’ve proven what you can do as an influencer. Put together a portfolio of the photos you used for the first brand collaboration, as well as a brief summary of the likes, engagement, or other statistics that you can offer about your first brand collaboration. Make these when you have completed your first, and you’ll have them available to hand to future brands at a moment’s notice.
You can also include your previous experiences in pitch letters. Statements like “My posts gained an average of 1,000 likes” or “The brand experienced a 10% growth in followers the same weekend I posted for them” will all help to motivate brand managers to work with you. You can also list the brand names if they are in a related industry, or a significant name. This will help to show the brand you are pitching to that you have worked with quality brands in the past and helped them promote their products successfully.
With these general guidelines, you should be able to contact brands, promote yourself as an influencer, and land that first collaboration! Good luck!